Yet no international treaty on climate change makes reference to human rights, nor does any human rights treaty reference climate change. The next climate agreement, recently drafted in Lima and to be signed in Paris next year, provides an important opportunity to make a clear, explicit connection between climate change and human rights through the incorporation of specific language.
During an event at the UN Climate Summit, Gustavo Alanís, president of the Mexican Center for Environmental Law (CEMDA), cited the human rights to food and water, explaining that rising temperatures reduce crop productivity and decrease the availability of clean water.
This relationship highlights the material vulnerability of many people's living conditions. Effective adaptation measures are needed to ensure that conditions do not worsen, added Manuel Pulgar Videl, Peru's Minister of the Environment and President of the COP20.
María José Veramendia Villa, an AIDA senior attorney, recalled that the impacts of climate change on human rights were addressed in a 2009 report prepared by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. The report said that climate change will affect the right to life by causing increased hunger and malnutrition, and that related diseases would have consequences for the growth and development of children.
Following the report, the UN Human Rights Commission issued a resolution that stated, "the impacts related to climate change have a series of implications, both direct and indirect, on the full enjoyment of human rights…"
Agreements signed at COP16 in Cancun, Mexico provide that the State Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change "must fully respect human rights" in all climate change related activities.
Given this background, added Veramendi Villa, a challenge for 2015 is to ensure that the new climate agreement includes specific and comprehensive language on the obligation of States to protect, promote, and respect human rights in all its climate actions.
"If this happens," she explained, "we will have a binding international instrument that will guide the States' climate actions, and help them to implement the obligations they already have on human rights."
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